Monday, March 18, 2013

The Decima Gallery

133 Upper Street, Islington, London N1 1QP (behind Toast fashion), London
Book launch & Exhibition at Bread & Butter Antiques Islington 133 Upper Street, London, N1 1QP

The Decima Gallery Press Book 1993 – 2009

Decima Gallery Directors Alex Chappel and David C. West between 1993 and 2009 often used the media as a canvas for their art projects, using the gullibility of the media’s thirst for a good story to feed the media a series of topical but outlandish ideas and concepts, in order to curate art exhibitions that often only existed and only exhibited in the press. Concepts such as ‘The Jack Duckworth Memorial Clinic’ where West claimed he was a counsellor for Soap Opera Addicts and went on to launch this into the mainstream media along with West and Chappel artists such as Joshua Compton (director of Cult Gallery Factual Nonsense) Tracey Emin Jessica voogsanger all played their parts as soap opera addicts or counsellors before the hoax was revealed as a publicity stunt for West’s unpublished novel of the same name by an interview Guardian.
Again in 1996 West and Chappel were sickened by the media obsession with human tragedy and grisly murder, they set themselves up to be hounded and ridiculed by the media for their stunt ‘The Dennis Nilsen Tour Company’. This offered tours of Dunblane Hungerford and various murder sites, although the media took these stories at face value with no checking of the facts, this stunt again played itself out though the media as an art exhibit raising issues about how the media deal with such events.
Decima Gallery Founded in Bermondsey South London in 1997 was a gallery that ran events and main stream art exhibitions offering a space for young new artists to exhibit in London. Bermondsey, an area now cluttered with modern galleries such as the White Cube and trendy eateries bars and boutique hotels, but back then Bermondsey was a virtual a no go area and described as ‘The largest open prison in London’. Bermondsey main attraction was it’s famous antiques market, where in keeping with Bermondsey’s reputation a law called ‘market ouvert’ existed which meant if an item was sold between sunrise and sunset then its provenance could not be questioned, which meant stolen goods could be traded and good title would pass to the purchaser.
Once West and Chappel acquired the Decima Space they carried on with their theory that the media that art created was actually more interesting and more important than the art itself, the YBA’s were in full swing their work being talked about in the mainstream tabloid press and in many cases the articles were more interesting than the art itself. From this time on Decima Gallery was used as a muse or artist itself, using the fact it was a gallery to send press releases with the intention that the media which the artworks created became the actual art and the exhibition was solely played out via the media with the fact Decima existed as a gallery backing up the providence of their ever outlandish press releases. They also argued that the media often went several steps too far when dealing with stories and they said in an interview ‘Theirs Too Much Media and Too Little News’ claiming that the mainstream media were getting out of control and needed a large degree of restraint which in light of what has happened with Phone Hacking and the Leveson enquiry currently ongoing is perhaps a good time to release this press book.
Decima continued in Bermondsey and continued with elaborate and ridiculous stunts such as ‘Fuck Art and Pimp’ an Exhibition where it was claimed that the artist Angela Marshall would do a portrait and the artwork would only be consummated as art once Angela had had sex with her client, an exhibition that although a hoax created international news and made the front page of the ‘Independent’. Also Diana Day which included a pantomime cow marching though Bermondsey to commemorate one year since Princess Diana died. The pantomime cow went on to the front page of the South London Press and many other papers including The Evening Standard. At the suggestion of Gilbert and George the cow went to the Tate Gallery and was refused entry. Gilbert and George also produced an exhibit for the 1999 exhibition ‘Was Jesus a homosexual?’ exhibition curated by Richard Morley, later Gilbert and George went on to produce a series of works in 2006 entitled ‘Was Jesus a Hetrosexual?’
Decima never strayed from bad taste arguing that although Decima may come up with the ideas, the media never had to run them, Decima wanted to show how the media were out of control and did not have any regard for the people they were writing about or let the truth get in the way of a good story.
Decima's last major media exhibition ‘Make your own Maddy McCann porn’ was maybe going beyond bad taste, Decima claimed that they were plastering Maddy McCann’s image onto pornographic magazines for an exhibition, this never happened but the media backlash to an exhibition that didn’t exist was telling. Decima’s response to this was that the media had been running insane stories about the McCann’s almost daily and the media’s appetite was unstoppable and that the papers were out of control at this point, rather tellingly this exhibition happened shortly before the phone hacking scandal came into the pubic domain and although West and Chappel agreed it was in bad taste much of the the media had become polluted and foul at this point, a point which is actually admitted now by the press. Although this stunt was beyond bad taste parallels can be made between the hacking of Milly Dowler’s phone and questions where the news media can draw the line between a good story and bad taste.
West and Chappel also acquired several life size dog costumes which were then used to help promote their new gallery in Hackney Wick which opened in 2008 with a well received exhibition which included over 100 artists entitled ‘The Famous, The Infamous and The Really Quite Good’. Decima also jointly established the Hackney Wicked Arts Festival in Hackney Wick in 2008 by organising the ‘Hackney Wick Art Olympics’ Exhibition.
Often deliberately going against the grain, Decima used the letter pages of the Hackney Gazette for a series tongue in cheek letters supporting anything from Tesco Wanting to open in Clapton to Claiming artist Banksy is over and should be painted over by Hackney Council. Decima supporting the strippers of Hackneys strip clubs when Hackney Council was trying to close down Hackneys Strip clubs, even in the pages of the Hackney Gazette inviting the Mayor of Hackney Jules Pipe to spend an afternoon going round the strip clubs of Hackney.
This is the launch of the Decima Press book 1993-2009 the book is made up of all existing press releases exhibition invitations and all known and available press coverage of Decima gallery and also including the 1993 – 1996 publicity stunts the Jack Duckworth Memorial Clinic and the Denis Nilsen Tour Company. Bread and Butter Will also exhibit pages from the press book in it’s gallery.
The Decima Press Book is to be sold in a limited edition of 100 spiral bound signed and numbered editions £50 each.
The links below show the Decima Gallery Wikipedia page and some examples of the media coverage.

Opening Hours Thurs - Sun 12pm - 6pm or by appointment
Private View Exhibition & Book Launch Wednesday 11th July 2012 6pm – 8.30pm
Exhibition Thursday 12th July – Sunday 15th July 2012
phone Dave 07956 465 737 or Alex 07828 110 544

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